Testimonia neglected by the Seventh Ecumenical Council
Annuarium Historiae Conciliorum / Internationale Zeitschrift für Konziliengeschichtsforschung
Ιn the florilegium of Nicaea ΙΙ, Gregory the Theologian is represented by only one quotation, taken from his poems.(7) The florilegium of Vatopedi, however, uses another quotation, again taken from his poems; it is a testimony of great importance. Gregory composed a group of twelve epigrams for his great friend Basil.(8) According to the evidence of the last one, in the order of the printed editions, they were all together devoted to St. Basil's "dust".
Γρηγόριοs, Βασίλειε, τεή κονι την δ' ανέθηκα
Των επιγραμματίων, δείε, δυωδεκάδα
Ι, Gregory, Basil divine, have devoted
these dozen small epigrams to thy dust.
The two words "thy dust", Τεή κόνι in Greek, created a philological problem even, for the ancient scribes, to judge from the inconsistency of the reading: τεή κονι, τεή κόνεϊ, τεή κονίη.Κόνιs, of course, means the dust, the ashes of the dead. The logical assumption is, therefore, that Basil's body was burned and the epigrams were dedicated to its ashes; but this is not possible. Certainly, it is possible to take κόνιs as referring to Basil's corpse. But even so, the question remains: in what sense could the epigrams technically be devoted to either the dust or the corpse? Νοw, the Florilegium of Vatopedi(9) as well as two later florilegia of Nicephoros of Constantinople(10) -one of which is still awaiting an editor- have another reading, which justifies the use of these verses in support of the icons: instead of "τεή κόνι" (=thy dust), they have "ση εικόνι" (thy icon). Moreover, the verses are introduced in the florilegium by a note found in all three florilegia:
"Let Gregory come to assistance, he who has theology as his surname. Because, though in his many and excellent encomia he praised Basil the Great with his powerful words, he acknowledged he was defeated by this man's genius. So, he thought better to honour him by an image, expressing through this his love more clearly. Ιn devoting to him this icon, he embellished it with heroic and elegiac metres, addressing the one depicted with these words".
The verses of all twelve epigrams follow this note. It goes without saying, of course, that the verses were not offered to Basil's ashes. Such a dedication could only be made to the person of Basil himself, who in Gregory's conscience was still alive; but it could also be made, of course, to the image of his person. For this reason, Ι am of the opinion that the correct reading is "ση εικόνι", to thy image.(11) It is impossible that all the members of the Nicaean Council of 787 were ignorant of the last verses of the epigrams. Ι suppose that the reason why they avoided using this excellent testimony is that its manuscript tradtion was uncertain and doubtful.
7. Έπη 1,1, PG 37, 737 Α. Μαnsi 13, 13 BC.
8. PG 38, 72-75. Ρ.Waltz, Anthologia Graeca, Les Belles Lettres 95, Paris 1960(2). W.R. Ρaton, The Greek Anthology, The Loeb Classical Library, Cambridge Mass., 1970(7).
9. Cod.Vatop. 594, cg. 40, 9,f. 153(β).
10. a)Kατά Επιφανίδου , J. Ρitra, Spicilegium Solesmense IV, 292-380. b) Ελεγχος και ανατροπή του ψευδωνύμου όρου των εικονομάχων, inedited, Paris. Gr. 1250, ff. 173-332 (259α). Nicephoros quotes only the last three epigrams.
11. This is also the opinion οf Basil Phanourgakis who dealt with the subject in his study Γρηγορίου του θεολόγου τα δώδεκα επιγράμματα ειs τον Μέγαν Βασίλειον, Θεσσαλονίκη 1981, reprint from Τόμοs Εόρτιοs εις Μέγαν Βασίλειον.